An investigator for the board, Timothy Petumenos, said that the fund was illegal because it inappropriately used the word "official" on its website, wrongly implying Palin's endorsement as governor. But Petumenos found that Palin acted in good faith and relied on the advice of lawyers when setting up the fund, and also noted that Palin completely cooperated with the investigation. Alaska Dispatch does reveal that Palin's attorney Thomas Van Flein originally warned Palin that the proposed trust might not meet the letter of the Alaska law and should be run past the state Ethics Board before proceeding, but Palin chose not to accept that advice. She had seven lawyers advising her -- six of them big-time litigators from the Lower 48 -- and she chose to accept their advice instead. In 2009, after Kim Chatman first filed this ethics complaint, another Personnel Board investigator, Anchorage attorney Tom Daniel, found "probable cause" that the Alaska Fund Trust was a violation of state law.
The terms of the settlement, as spelled out on pp 8-9 of the settlement agreement:
1. Governor Palin agrees to continue to decline to receive funds donated to the Trust during the time she served as Governor (prior to July 26, 2009).
2. All donations received by the Trust prior to that date, and any donations that do not comply with the Trust term limitations (as to amount of donation or source) shall be returned to the donor.
3. Expenses of the Trust must be defrayed from donations obtained after Governor Palin's resignation date, or from another legal source other than from the funds received by the Trust prior to the resignation date. If the Trust's expenses have already been paid in an amount that exceeds available funds, the matter must be managed in such a way so that there are adequate funds to fully reimburse donors who donated prior to the Governor's resignation.
4. The Trust shall either (a) be amended to exclude as beneficiaries currently serving state officials; or (b) the Trustee shall resign in favor of a Trustee that holds no public office; or (c) the Trustee shall relinquish all public offices. Governor Palin may also cause the Trust to be terminated in its entirety if the termination is consistent with the other terms of this Agreement.
5. Governor Palin shall continue to support and assist in the corrective action, will secure the cooperation of the Trustee as to the foregoing, and shall not take any action that undercuts or undermines the corrective action agreed to herein. In the event that circumstances arise which Governor Palin cannot control in effectuating this corrective action, she will promptly report any difficulties to the ethics supervisor at the State of Alaska Department of Law appointed for this purpose.
6. This Consent Decree and Settlement Agreement shall be enforced, going forward, by the State of Alaska, Department of Law. Governor Palin shall take this corrective action within 90 days of the signing of this Agreement and report to the Department of Law, or its designee, that the Agreement has been complied with or state cause for any required extension of time.
7. The underlying evidence adduced, pursuant to AS 39.52.340 and AS 39.52.335, shall remain confidential.
Prior to the formal announcement of the settlement, Palin's attorney Thomas Van Flein posted an essay entitled "Sarah Palin: The Uncommon Law – Reality and Common Sense" on Palin's Facebook page. But of greater interest is former Palin advisor Meghan Stapleton's own reaction, "The Cost of Legal Warfare – A Few Words About Today’s Defense Fund Agreement". Stapleton points out that they used the word “official” in the Alaska Fund Trust website to distinguish the Alaska Fund Trust, which was vetted as compliant, from other such sites not vetted to be compliant. At the time, many people around the country wanted to start legal defense funds for Governor Palin, but there was no way for the Palin team to know whether all these other potential funds would comply with various laws, including donation limits, limits against contributions from lobbyists or contributions from foreign nationals. So designating the Alaska Fund Trust as "official" was meant to show the public that it had been vetted.
Stapleton also announced that a new legal defense fund, without risk of offending any investigator or state law, has been initiated. It exists at http://www.sarahpalinlegal
Reaction: Conservatives4Palin is critical of the finding and believes it shows that Obama was out to get Palin. They also remind us that the complainant, Kim Chatman, is married to a Black man and was pissed off that Palin didn't publicly recognize Juneteenth during some year, the premise being that Chatman was motivated just as much by personal revenge as she was by a concern for "ethics".
Meanwhile, Mudflats records a post by Geoffrey Dunn, the author of a forthcoming anti-Palin hate screed entitled "The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power". In his post, Dunn cites reaction by serial complainer Andree McLeod:
“I am outraged by the amount of time it has taken for the personnel board to mete out justice for Sarah Palin’s abuse of power relating to her legal defense fund. Palin reportedly amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars before she quit. It’s been over a year, and although we have strict laws that demand disclosure of these kinds of financial activities by our officials, the current administration refuses to get off the dime.”Alaskans still don’t know who gave how much towards Palin’s personal benefit while governor. Palin still needs to be held accountable for her misconduct while in office…quitting doesn’t make that go away.”